If you need support to live independently and want to take charge of your own life, it’s worth considering direct payments.
With direct payments, your local council pays you an agreed amount into your bank account instead of arranging what care and support you receive on your behalf. You then use this money to achieve the outcomes that matter to you in the way you choose.
As a direct payments user, you decide who supports you and when they support you, giving you far greater flexibility and choice about how your lead your life.
Who can get direct payments?
Direct payments can be made to:
- adults and young people over 16 with support needs who can make decisions for themselves
- a person with parental responsibility for a disabled child
- a disabled parent who needs support to care for their child/children
- carers aged 16 or over
- a person who is unable to make their own decisions (payments are made to a suitable person*)
*A suitable person is usually a family member or close friend who will act in someone’s best interests when managing their care. The suitable person will often (though not always) have Power of Attorney to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of the individual.
Starting direct payments
You can only get direct payments if you have been assessed as needing support from the local council to achieve certain things (your personal outcomes) set out in your care and support plan and your local council has agreed to pay for some or all of that support.
Direct payments are to meet your personal (care needs). You cannot get them purely to meet your healthcare needs (although these can be secondary).
Your council must make direct payments available to you as long as you are willing and able to manage them. The amount you receive will be based on the number of hours care per week required and the outcome of your financial assessment.
If the council has been arranging your care and support up to now, you can ask to change to direct payments anytime. Just ask your social worker. You don’t have to wait until the next review of your care and support plan.
You do not have to use direct payments but if you do, you cannot use them to buy services from a local council.
If you prefer, you can use a mixture of direct payments and services arranged by your local council.
Stopping direct payments
If you change your mind about using direct payments, you can ask to stop at any time and ask the local council to provide your support services instead.
Your local council can also stop your direct payments if it believes your needs are not being met with the money it pays you or if you no longer have those needs, e.g. you only needed help for a short time.
If you stop using direct payments and still have support needs, your social worker will make sure there is a care and support plan in place so there is no gap in your support services.
Graphic designer Katie, one of the first direct payments users in the UK, has produced a short film showing how direct payments have helped her to study, work, launch her own business and travel the world.
People in Torfaen tell how direct payments have changed their lives.
Social Care Wales has an online guide to direct payments on its website.
Age Cymru has also produced a comprehensive factsheet about direct payments (February 2021).